Looking for the best Florida East Coast Beaches?
When people think Florida, they think the beach. This makes sense as Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, making it a peninsula. To the west there is the Gulf of Mexico and to the east, the Atlantic Ocean. We are going to focus on the east coast.
Let’s talk beach preparedness. Florida is hot with a capital H. This means there are two major necessities for a day at the beach. One is plenty of water, and two is sunscreen. Waterproof sunscreen is your best option as you most likely will be taking a dip in the ocean at some point, and even if you don’t, you will be sweating under the sweltering Florida sun, so stick with the waterproof option.
Water these days is readily available for purchase almost anywhere, but some of these east coast beaches are located on National Parks, meaning they are far from any gas stations or shops, so make sure your cooler is stocked with some ice-cold H2O.
The beach can be a magical place, but you are still out in nature and need to take precautions to keep yourself safe. Before you jump to Jaws, I am not talking about sharks. Should you run into the ocean with a gushing wound? Obviously not as sharks can smell blood from a quarter mile away, but for the most part, they leave humans alone. In fact, if you look at aerial shots taken from a helicopter, you will see plenty of sharks swimming amongst the beach goers not bothering anyone.
For reference, in the year 2021, there were only 73 unprovoked shark bites worldwide. So, since sharks are not a concern, what is? Look out for flags or signage letting beach visitors know if there is any danger they should be aware of, like rip currents or jellyfish. For instance, a purple flag means dangerous marine life and a red flag indicates rough waters or currents.
15 Best Florida East Coast Beaches For Summer Fun!
Playalinda Beach is located near Titusville, Florida on a National Park. The entrance fee for this beach is $20 dollars per vehicle, or $40 for a year pass. The year pass is the obvious choice unless you are from out of state and know you will not be returning.
The water at Playalinda is a gorgeous sea green, which is not always a given on Florida’s east coast. Some of the beaches are murkier, like at New Smyrna Beach, making the waters of Playalinda a real treat. The boardwalk from the parking lot to the sandy shore is lined with breath taking greenery that makes for a picture perfect scene with the white capped waves breaking in the background. The surf is usually pretty mild, but can kick up every once in a while, especially in the wake of a storm.
As it sits on a Nation Park, visitors can truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty around them. Civilization is left miles away, with not a building in site and phone service that gets more than a little spotty. While driving, you are more than likely going to see some sort of wildlife, like a turtle crossing the road, an alligator sunning, or even a wild boar milling about.
Due to Playalinda Beach’s remote location, a picnic lunch is advisable as there is nowhere to grab a bite on the beach. Homemade sandwiches and some nice cold watermelon is a beach classic, but if you want to experience some local cuisine, you could order something to go from one of Titusville’s local restaurants before heading out.
Calling all the brave soul’s daring enough to ditch their trunks and bikini’s. The last pier at this beach, the famed pier 13 is the designated pier for nude sunbathing. It is quite popular and often so packed that it spills over into the adjacent pier. One of the best beaches on the east coast of Florida.
See more: best beach camping in Florida
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach has got it going on. From Aqua Flight to beach yoga, scuba diving, and more, this beach has it all. Located a stone’s throw from the city streets, beach goers have a great view of the city as well as a tropical paradise.
Aqua Flight is a unique watersport company in Fort Lauderdale that offers what they call flyboarding. This is a system where the rider is strapped to a board and propelled upward by water shooting out from the bottom of the board. The flyboard is reminiscent of the hoverboards from Back to the Future II. It is a sight to see and even cooler to experience.
Another popular rental at Aqua Flight is the SEABOB. This devise allows users to explore the underwater sights without having to be an exceptional swimmer. It is a small vehicle that users can hold onto to pull them along so they can explore the sea life below, or the views on the surface if they prefer.
Fort Lauderdale also has a notable fishing scene. There are countless deep-sea charters to take visitors out for some fishy fun. You can expect big game like tarpon and swordfish that will not disappoint.
Suba diving is another activity that should definitely be on your to-do list while visiting Fort Lauderdale Beach. There is a reef to explore as well as a few shipwrecks. Places like Sea Experience Scuba Diving offer not only diving, but for those less daring, snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours where the sea life can be enjoyed while staying dry.
South Beach is located in Miami, Florida and is quite the party scene. There are raves and concerts held on the beach at night and Brazilian bikinis galore during the day. It is not uncommon for women to even go topless. Basically, if you are looking to party hard and free the tatas, this is your spot. And, for an added bonus the Florida sun is perfect for sweating out some of the alcohol imbibed the night before.
Everything at this beach is beautiful, from the crystal clear waters to the cute and colorfully painted life guard stations spotting the beach. Even the sidewalks along South Beach are lined with giant palm trees, as if you have entered the scene of a Hollywood movie.
For those fitness lovers, you can always go for a run on the beach or join a beach volleyball game. If you do choose to play some ball, just know that you had better bring you’re A Game because competition is fierce and there are bound to be some spectators.
Jetty Park is a beach in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The word “jetty” refers to a structure that projects from land out into the water, like a dock. The jetty at Jetty Park is lined with giant black rocks that are a safe place for small oceanic creatures, like crabs and the like that can be seen from the jetty if you look closely. The jetty is also a great spot to fish and watch cruise ships come and go from the nearby port.
If you are new to Jetty Park, be warned, visitors must purchase a parking pass in advance as they no longer allow payment at the gate. This beach offers beach wheelchairs available for rent, free of charge, and other items like kayaks and umbrellas for a small fee. For parties and get togethers there are pavilions that can be reserved. The pavilions are equipped with grills and there is a playground close by for the kiddos.
St. Augustine Beach
St. Augustine, Florida is known for its rich history. The historic district offers many educational tours where the fort used by early settlers can be toured.
This specific part of St. Augustine is a popular place for school field trips and tourist. The beach is a few miles away and gives beach goers an opportunity to see the sites if they choose, but also the chance to get away from the more tourist heavy areas and escape to the beach.
St. Augustine Beach offers the usual beach fun, like beach volleyball and fishing, along with shops and restaurants close by if picnicking isn’t your cup of tea.
Neptune Beach is a beach in, you guessed it, Neptune Beach, Florida. As this is a smaller town in Florida, the beach is quieter than most and offers some seclusion.
There are beach walkers and shell hunters that may pass you by while you are lounging on this beach, but it is not overly crowded and offers a great place to get some peace and quiet, and maybe even sneak in a little nap.
The main pitfall of this beach is parking. As it is in a residential area, there is not a wide variety of public parking options, but once you find a spot, the trouble is worth it. Because people do live right off this beach, locals are the main beach goers and are very friendly, usually offering advice on where to eat or what is going on that weekend in Neptune Beach.
Jacksonville Beach is a white sand beach covered in seashells and jam packed with activities for its visitors. Jacksonville is a major city, and as such, knows how to entertain. There are waterfront restaurants just off the beach and a golf course close enough that you can still smell the salty air while golf carting to the next hole.
This beach does get pretty packed on weekends and holidays, but that is just how it is in Jacksonville, so if you don’t like it, head to Neptune Beach because the crowds are here to stay. While sunbathing, you can enjoy the surfers or take to the board yourself as the surf at Jacksonville Beach is decent, not the best in Florida, but up there on the list.
For all the fisherman out there, there is a lengthy pier that is almost a quarter mile long. Due to its length, it offers fisherman the chance for some big fish action as it goes deep enough for some of the larger species. Like Jacksonville’s beach, this pier is popular, so you will have to get there early to claim a prime spot towards the end of the pier. Like they say, the early bird gets the worm, or in this case the fish.
Cocoa Beach is one of Florida’s most famous beaches. It is home to the biggest surf shop, a hulking Ron Jon Surf Shop, and is also where the surf legend Kelly Slater was born. With this information, it should not come as a shock, that this is a popular beach for surfing. The waves are fairly consistent and decent size most days.
Another popular beach activity is volleyball. There are multiple sand volleyball courts near the pier open for organized leagues or spur of the moment beach fun. Speaking of the pier, it is a perfect place to grab drinks or a bite to eat. It is also a tourist’s dream.
At the mouth there is a giant wave statue with a board in the curl of the wave that visitors can stand on for photographs, an ice cream shop for cooling off with a sweet treat, and a gift shop with shells, sunglasses, and cocoa beach apparel for purchase. The pier also offers amazing views whether you are looking to people watch or just enjoy the beauty that is the Atlantic Ocean.
Down in the sand there are little creatures to be found called sand fleas. As the waves pull back after a crash you can often see these little sand fleas swimming about slow enough to be caught for a closer look. They are grey and white and about the size of a rhinoceros beetle. On land they may give you a start, but in the waves, they are quite intriguing and even a little cute!
Though the city has the name “beach” in it, Daytona is probably most widely known for racing, as it is home to the Daytona 500. This said, Daytona Beach is no slouch in the beach department. It is open 24 hours and is completely free for pedestrians or bicyclists. If you are planning to drive on for the convenience of not lugging all your beach gear around, the cost is $20, which depending on how far away you parked, may be worth its weight in gold.
A cool feature at this beach is that there are designated surfing zones, which means non-surfers can enjoy the waves without have to worry about getting nailed by a board. This is not a common occurrence, but definitely puts a mind at ease knowing collision is not a possibility.
The white sand of this beach is small grain and hard packed, making it perfect for walking or biking. The large grain, shelly sand at beaches like Playlinda Beach make it very hard to bike on as the sand is loose in contrast and even makes walking a bit more strenuous because your feet sink in the shifting sand as you go.
The sand at Daytona Beach is also very soft and has a tendency to stay a little cooler than most because it is so light in color, which your sandal-less feet are sure to thank you for.
Ponce Inlet is a beach in Volusia County where the waves are rough, which makes for great surfing. This beach is a little more secluded compared to its other Volusia County beaches, like Daytona Beach for instance. Because of this, it is the perfect place to escape and get some sun without feeling suffocated by all the other bodies on the beach.
The beach is just a few minutes from the Ponce De Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum, so if you need a break from the sand, head on over and enjoy the views from the top of the lighthouse.
It is just over 200 stairs to get the top, so it is mildly strenuous but well worth the effort for the breathtaking view. The lighthouse is the tallest in Florida and is bright red, so you can spot it from quite a ways away. One of Florida’s best East Coast beaches for sure.
Smyrna Dunes Park
At most beaches, dogs are not allowed, and if they are, they are restricted to certain times of day when the beach is not especially populated. So, if you are looking for a beach day with your furry friend, head to Smyrna Dunes Park, the dog beach in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. This dog beach is in high demand and has an occupancy limit, so make sure you get there early as the line in the summer is often hours long by midday.
Once you have parked, get ready to walk. The dirt trail to the beach is lined with shrubbery and a little lengthy, so if you can pack a backpack or a rolling cooler to cut down on items you have to carry, it is advisable. This minor annoyance doesn’t bother most as it is a labor of love for our pups.
Smyrna Dunes Park is a little different than most beaches as the shore is very short and butted up against the aforementioned shrubbery that lines the trail leading to the beach. This keeps occupants a little more spread out since they cannot be rows deep on the shore and also provides a healthy supply of fetching sticks.
There is quite a lot of mingling going on at the dog beach. The dogs create common ground and are often interested in getting to know one another, which leads to introductions and perfect opportunities to make new human and canine friends alike.
Sebastian Inlet is always a good time and offers many things, but is best known for two, surfing and fishing. This beach has great waves, hosts multiple surfing competitions throughout the year, and has a marina on site where it seems the fish are always biting. There is a huge variety, from sheepshead, snook and grouper, to shark and much more.
Outside of the two main attractions, the crystal-clear water offers not only a gorgeous view, but an amazing opportunity for snorkeling and diving. And, for those less ambitious, there is always sunbathing to enjoy and drip castles to be built.
Delray Municipal Beach
Delray Municipal Beach is a quaint beach in Palm Beach County Florida. This beach is well cared for by a beach cleaning service that keeps it pristine for beach goers. Amongst the usual beach volleyball, sunning, swimming, and biking, visitors can watch all the sailboats on the water.
The hyperactive boat activity is due to the fact that this beach has sailboat storage, so boating is popular and provides a great form of unofficial entertainment for those on the shore. A Delray Municipal Beach day is the perfect thing to get your mind off your troubles and just relax.
New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is a beach located in, you guessed it, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. New Smyrna is about the beachiest beach town you can imagine and is exactly what most out-of-staters picture when they think of Florida if they have never been. There are colorfully painted houses, pastel pink restaurants, and mural covered storefronts lining the street leading to the beach entrance on Flagler Avenue.
There is free parking along Flagler Avenue or visitors can drive on to the beach and park for a fee. New Smyrna Beach is usually pretty packed with people, locals and vacationers alike. There are plenty of local shops to be explored just a few paces off the shore and trucks selling ice cream and food right on the beach. There are lifeguards at regular intervals, clean bathrooms, freshwater showers, and surfboards available to rent. Basically, New Smyrna has it all.
In terms of food, The Garlic deserves a special shout out. The restaurant may look unassuming on the outside, but upon entering, it is like walking into another world. There is always a wait and they do not take reservations, but the wait is well worth it. The building is partially open to the elements, with trees coming up out of the middle of the structure.
Said trees are covered in fairy lights, offering a magical, otherworldly feel. The covered portions of the building also have plants and lights throughout, with multiple live bands performing, one at each end of the sprawling building. The Garlic is the perfect way to end a day at the beach. You can check out more restaurants in New Smyrna beach here.
Apollo Beach is located on a nature preserve and is the polar opposite of its neighbor New Smyrna Beach. This beach is secluded, miles away from the hustle and bustle of shops and homes. There are nature trails galore and the only buildings are bathrooms. Because of this, you will need to bring a picnic lunch and plenty of water.
Apollo Beach is one of Florida’s nude beaches. Most piers sport bathing suit clad visitors, but the last pier is for those seeking a tan line free physique. Signs are posted so that no one accidently ends up at the nude pier unawares. This beach has a laid-back vibe and everyone, nudists and suit wearers alike, tend to mind their own business.
One thing to be aware of at Apollo Beach is the current. It is pretty strong, so make sure you are a competent swimmer or keep to the shallower areas. It is easy to be out in the water and drift along with the current without realizing it if you are not paying attention. You can end up quite a ways away from your spot on the beach and end up having to walk back down the shore to your belongings.